|Farfa Abbey (Abbazia di Farfa)|
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|Farfa Abbey profoundly influenced the history of the whole of the Sabina area, having controlled, during it's "golden age", nearly all the nearby towns and villages. But it wasn't only important on a local level, in fact it was one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Europe and played a major role in the power struggles between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, opposing the power of the Papacy for centuries. The role of the Abbey in conserving knowledge and culture and in spreading new technologies during a period of instability, invasions and depopulation caused by plague should not be underestimated.|
|The exact date of the foundation of the
Abbey is uncertain, according to legend it was founded in the sixth century by St. Lorenzo
Siro. After a period in which it was abandoned due to the Longobard invasions the
monastery was rebuilt by St. Tommaso of Moriana, around 680 AD, after he had a vision
during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which the Virgin Mary appeared to him and
instructed him to find and reconstruct the ruined basilica.
The monastery, which followed the Benedictine rule, immediately assumed an important political role. Under the protection of the Dukes of Spoleto and the Longobard kings the Abbey became rich, assuming control of many nearby castles and villages and opposing the power of Rome. In 775 AD the monastery sided with Charlemagne, a happy choice which led to the further expansion of the Abbey's influence and the reconstruction of the basilica on a larger scale under the Abbot Sicardo, (830-842 AD). In 897 AD the Abbey was abandoned and burned again due to the Saracen invasions. The reconstruction began in 913 AD but with the decline of the Caroline empire several decades passed before the Abbey was able to regain it's former power. Under the Abbot Ugo I (997-1038 AD) and his successors the monastery saw a political and spiritual renaissance, regaining its lands in the Sabina.
With the crisis in the Benedictine order and the struggle for the Papacy in the twelfth century the Abbey began to decline and eventually fell under the control of the Papal States. From here on it's history follows that of the Vatican and the struggles between powerful Roman families for it's control. In 1477 AD the Orsini family asserted it's growing power in the Sabina by expelling all the monks of Farfa and replacing them with Teutonic monks. In the following centuries the Abbey passed under the control of various Roman nobles such as the Barberini and the Farnese but it never really reacquired the importance and independence it once had. Finally, in 1841 AD its powers were definitively transferred to the diocese of the Sabina.
|Farfa Abbey played a vital role not only in the religious and political life of the area but also in it's economic development. This is demonstrated by the importance of the Farfa Fair, which already existed in 882 AD Thanks to generous concessions from the Caroline Empire Farfa became a focal point for trade with an important weekly market. After the reconstruction of the monastery by the Orsinis during the Renaissance new shops were built around the monastery to accommodate the merchants, giving birth to a twice yearly fair lasting 15 days. These shops and the urban structure of which they are part can still be seen today and the street names reflect the original uses of each street, for example "via di droghe e cere" (street of medicines and waxes), "via di panni e sete" (street of cloths and silks) and so on. You can still see the characteristic stone slabs at the entrance to each shop which were used as counters by the merchants.|
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